By NASCAR Wire Service
Chase Elliott would probably like to forget his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start.
Debuting in the 2015 STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway with much fanfare, Elliott was forced to take his No. 25 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to the garage on the 74th go-around of the 500-lap race after sustaining heavy damage from two separate wrecks. His crew feverishly worked to get him back out on the track where he battled his way to a 38th-place finish.
“This is a different ball-game,” Elliott said after the race. “These guys are here in the Sprint Cup Series for a reason, and I’ve got some work to do. I have to get better.”
What a difference a year makes.
Widely regarded as one of NASCAR’s next big stars, the 20-year-old enters his second race at Martinsville – Sunday’s STP 500 (1 p.m. on FS1) – coming off a career-best sixth-place finish at Auto Club. He has produced three top-10 finishes in the first five races this season and would likely have four if not for an unfortunate wreck at Las Vegas.
This time, Elliott hits the .526-mile oval known as the paperclip in the No. 24 Chevrolet he inherited from Jeff Gordon – the Martinsville race winner last fall.
“The 24 guys had a great fall race at Martinsville,” Elliott said. “The only thing that I have to go off of is the spring race and it wasn’t very good for me. I’m just trying to look back on that and fix some of the mistakes I made and improve upon that. That’s all I can ask for.”
A five-time winner in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, many believe Elliott will visit Victory Lane at the Sprint Cup level sooner than later.
“The grandfather clock (you win at Martinsville) is one of the coolest trophies you can earn in racing, period. There are a lot of guys that have a bunch of them and some guys who have been doing this for a long time and are still trying to get one. It’s a neat place and such a cool trophy and it would be very special to earn one someday.”
Image: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images